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  • Learning- Backward By Design by Dr. Christine Powell

    Hi LBC Learners,

    Learning how you learn best is possibly the most productive way to move forward in your learning journey.

    Traditionally, educators and learners are familiar with forward design. Think back to traditional teaching, where teachers plan learning activities and create practice activities with the goal of moving learners forward; all the while assuming this will lead them towards knowledge acquisition. And it does, sometimes. But not for ALL learners. As a teacher of students with learning challenges I know this all too well.

    I recently read about a new way of learning called backward-design. A very different approach that accomplishes the same goal of bringing learners closer to their goals- Only in a different way.

    In backward design, you start with the learning outcome in mind. You think about the destination you want to reach and plan the road map to get there. You begin with the end in mind. 

    But how do you start with the end in mind? Answering the following question can help: 

    “Which concepts do I need to understand and which activities do I need to practice to achieve the desired learning outcome?”

    This requires more planning than simply picking topics that might be relevant, but it’s far more intentional and effective. 

    ​There is an incredible Ultralearner named Scott Young who has applied this principle when he learned new languages in record time. Unlike Scott, I used Duolingo and practiced each day but make very little progress. I practiced isolated vocabulary words, and short phrases. My learning was not done in context which impacted my overall productiveness. When Scott designed his learning journey, he did so with a specific outcome in mind: having actual conversations in real life (the exact steps he used are in the section below). 

    Now the all important question: How do you know the exact steps that bring you to your learning outcome? 

    Skill trees can help. In Danny Forest words: “A SkillUp Tree gives you a clear sense of direction and makes it easier for you to judge the level of complexity required to learn a specific new skill.”

    Here’s an example skill tree, designed by Danny, on playing the Ukulele. I actually tried this to help me learn the uku, and after breaking the skills down, it made so much sense.

    Source: Use Skill Trees to Learn New Skills In a Fun and Painless Way(Danny Forest)

    Once you know the sub-skills necessary for reaching your learning goal, you can plan the specific activities. And that’s how you can start your next learning endeavor with the end in mind.

    Try this process in your next learning endeavor and become a faster, better learner through backwards design.

    Happy Learning and Aloha,

    Christine